Dear Prudence

I Look Identical to My Boyfriend’s Ex

Their close friendship also makes me uncomfortable.

Photo collage of a woman next to a man and a woman who looks similar to her
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by igor_kell/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Astarot/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence,

I have been in a relationship with “Jason” for nearly two years. We live together, and everything is great. However, his ex-girlfriend, “Sammie,” is his best friend. She lives several states away, and he sees her maybe once or twice a year when she is in the area. They dated for close to five years and broke up when she came out as gay.

I feel totally unreasonable about this, but I hate their friendship. I know nothing will happen between them, both because of her sexual orientation and because he’s trustworthy, but every time she is around all they do is talk about the good old days and all the stuff they’ve done together. It makes me feel like a third wheel. I’m also uncomfortable by the fact that when they dated, she looked astoundingly like me. (She has since changed her style considerably.) She will be making her way across the country for a road trip and has asked to stay with us for a couple of days. I don’t feel like I’m allowed to say no to this request, as Jason would love for her to stay with us. I’ve only met her a few times, and she is always very nice. I just don’t like her, and I hate that I feel this way. I’m afraid if I tell Jason how I feel, he will see me as the jealous jerk I actually am. How can I fix this?

—Why Am I a Jealous Mess?

Start by thinking about what makes you uncomfortable about their relationship and the fact that she used to look like you. Does it bother you more to think your boyfriend might have a type, or that your look isn’t as distinct as you thought it was? Can you put more specific language to that discomfort and the way you fear it threatens your individuality or the importance of your relationship with Jason now? Saying “I don’t feel like I’m allowed to say no” because she’s nice and your boyfriend likes her is a recipe for resentment.

Then tell Jason how you feel. That doesn’t mean you have to come to him when you’re feeling like a ball of anxiety, confessing every insecure and uncharitable thought you’ve ever had about Sammie. You can start by acknowledging your own guilt, that you’re very much aware that she’s gay and he’s committed to being faithful to you, and that these insecurities and fears aren’t all based in reality. But that doesn’t mean they’re unimportant or a sign that you’re a jerk. Have an honest conversation with him about how she activates resentment and insecurity for you, unintentionally and without meaning to give offense. It’s not unheard-of for someone to feel a little thrown by their partner’s perfectly lovely ex. As long as you’re thoughtful in how you frame it, it’ll be clear to Jason that you’re not casting aspersions on her character, merely asking for a little additional support as you figure out how to relate to her.

If you two make real progress on this front and you decide you’re comfortable offering her a guest room, great! And that doesn’t mean you have to clear out of the house during every one of her visits. You don’t have to go along with them every time they catch up if you know they’re going to spend time talking about old friends and memories. Instead, do something that sounds fun for you. If you’re still not comfortable with the idea after you talk, it’s not at all shocking or unreasonable to tell a visiting friend or ex that you can’t host them for their next visit but you’d love to get dinner and catch up.

Dear Prudence,

My girlfriend and I are expecting our first child in July. For most of my life, I ranged from opposed to ambivalent about having kids but felt myself shift over the past few years. Every day I find myself getting more and more excited to become a father. Due to some ill-considered snooping on my part, I found out that an ex of mine is also pregnant. She was manic-depressive and suffered from PTSD from an abusive childhood. Unfortunately, she also abused me. When we finally broke up, she had a break from reality, attacked me, and was eventually involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility. I moved away and spent the next few years living in fear when she attempted to upend my life in every way that she could. She harassed me via the legal system, went after my friends and family, and threatened me repeatedly. She sent me terrifying diatribes in between attempts to “win me back.” I haven’t spoken to her in seven years.

I did my best to heal: I moved on with my life, I went to therapy, and I focused on the things I could control and began to rebuild. Joy began to slowly come back into my life. But the revelation that my ex is pregnant has made my anxiety hit the roof. I’m not even sure what I’m anxious about. More than that, the anger and resentment I thought I’d healed from have come rushing back. I hate that after everything she did to me and my loved ones, she gets to have a child—it feels unfair. Then I feel guilty for having such negative intrusive thoughts. How can I put this aside and focus on my own family? Just writing this letter has me feeling jittery and sick but also relieved to put how I’ve been feeling into words. I told my partner about my ex’s pregnancy in passing, but not the full extent of how it’s made me feel. She’s going through enough already. I don’t like being an angry, bitter person.

—Anxious Father-to-Be

Now might be an excellent time to consider returning to therapy. Not as an alternative to talking to your partner, because I think you’d want to know how she was doing and offer your support if your situations were reversed, but in addition to it. The fact that you’ve experienced both revulsion and relief in admitting these feelings in writing to a stranger is a strong indicator that you need to talk through them—not work harder to repress them or put them to the side.

This woman abused you for years and terrorized you long after you broke up with her and moved away. You’re terrified at the thought of her becoming responsible for something as small and vulnerable as a baby, because you know better than most just how dangerous she is. And the hard-won peace you’ve achieved has been disrupted as you’ve thought more about your ex recently. That doesn’t mean that peace was falsely won or that you haven’t experienced real joy and healing over the years, merely that you shouldn’t be surprised if you always feel unsettled, anxious, and angry when you’re reminded unwillingly of your abuser. I don’t know if this ever came up with your last therapist, but you might find it useful to explore a PTSD diagnosis of your own and see how that affects future treatment. I hope you give yourself permission to tell her and others just how difficult this has been for you and to speak to a therapist as soon as possible.

Dear Prudence,

My friend “Ashley” is outgoing, fun, and kind. We carpool to church most Sundays because we live in the same neighborhood in a city without reliable public transportation. I am naturally punctual and enjoy being five to 10 minutes early to church so I can get settled and say hi to friends before the service starts. When Ashley drives, I know we’ll be a bit late, which I’m OK with. It’s a pretty laid-back church, and no one bats an eye at latecomers.

When I pick her up, I text when I’m leaving the house and call when I’m parked outside. Often I have to wait more than 10 minutes while she’s running around getting ready, which makes me stressed out and angry. For the first few minutes driving, there’s a great deal of tension in the car. Then I cool down, we get to church, and everything is fine. But this pattern of making me wait on my driving days is starting to drive me nuts.

She clearly knows it bothers me, I’m not averse to confrontation or honesty, and I’ve made it clear to her every time she’s made me wait that it bothers me. Am I overreacting? Should I just suck it up for now and hope she starts managing her time better? I don’t want to stop carpooling—it would be so wasteful to drive separately!

—Late to Church

It’s wasteful to sit outside idling for 10–15 minutes, stewing in your own resentments and having to struggle to calm down and enter into an appropriate spirit of Christian charity on your way to church! You are expending way too much time and energy on Ashley’s nonsense, and I say that is someone who is not naturally inclined to punctuality. Tell her: “You know I love you, and you also know it’s really frustrating for me to wait outside your house on my days to drive. I don’t want to force you to change your morning routine, so let’s both get to church on our own, and I can save you a seat.”

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From Care and Feeding

My son was at a sleepover a month ago with extremely poor adult supervision, and wound up watching The Babadook. As you can imagine, this was an absolute disaster and we’ve been cleaning up the mess ever since. You’re going to think we’re ridiculous, but we actually wound up taking him to a therapist after the first two weeks of sleep refusal and needing to spend the night in our bed and dozens of questions about death and monsters and ghosts. A few sessions actually really seems to have done the trick, and he’s back in his own bed now and looking less like death warmed over.

My question is this: Can we ask the parents who hosted the sleepover to chip in for the costs? I am fully prepared to hear “No, that’s not OK,” but I just have so much free-floating anger at the entire situation. The kids were all 9 years old!